Iran Says It Will Retaliate after ‘Hostile’ U.S. Sanctions Amid Nuclear Deal Tensions

Iran on Saturday said it would retaliate against new U.S. sanctions imposed by Donald Trump on the head of Iran’s judiciary and others. It also rejected any modification of its nuclear deal with world powers after Trump demanded tough new measures to keep the agreement alive, SBS reports.

“Iran will not accept any amendments in this agreement, be it now or in the future, and it will not allow any other issues to be linked to the JCPOA. They crossed all red lines and violate international law,” Iran’s foreign ministry said, but it didn’t clarify how it might hit back.

On the streets of Tehran, many people have grown cynical and exasperated by the endless pressure from the United States.

“It doesn’t make any difference. We have been under U.S. sanctions for the last 40 years,” said Farshad Alyan, a 26-year-old law student.

Iran argues that continued U.S. sanctions on non-nuclear areas such as human rights and missile testing have effectively barred it from gaining many of the financial benefits expected from the deal.  Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said Trump’s aggressive stance on the deal and Iran generally have also violated the commitment to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran” in the accord.

“Trump’s policy (and) today’s announcement amount to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.  Rather than repeating tired rhetoric, U.S. must bring itself into full compliance – just like Iran,” Zarif tweeted, responding to Trump’s speech late Friday. Many analysts agree.

“Trump has once again avoided the nuclear option on the nuclear deal. But the clear reluctance with which he has issued the sanctions waivers will continue to weigh on the business community. However, if the ‘adults in the room’ prevailed this time and kept Trump from exiting the deal, there remains hope they will prevail in the end,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of the Europe-Iran Forum, a business network.

Saturday’s statement from Iran’s foreign ministry further criticised new sanctions on 14 individuals announced by the U.S. Treasury on Friday over human rights issues and Iran’s missile programme.

In particular, placing judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on the sanctions list “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community… and the government of the United States will bear responsibility for all the consequences of this hostile move”.

Trump has handed European allies an ultimatum to revamp the nuclear deal with Iran, something they have no intention of doing, posing a potential new conflict with other world leaders. The sanctions also target Chinese individuals and entities for their “support to designated Iranian weapons proliferators”.

“The U.S. government, like other parties to the deal, is obliged to fulfill all its obligations, and if it fails to comply with its obligations under false pretexts, it should be fully held accountable for the consequences”, the foreign ministry said in its statement.

Trump is also urging Congress to reform U.S. law so the president is no longer required to declare every 90 days whether he thinks Iran is in compliance, or to renew sanctions waivers every 120 or 180 days. The officials notably did not say that Trump expected the other two nations party to the deal – Russian Federation and China – to join in the revision of the deal.

“The vast majority of nonproliferation and security experts agree that the successful implementation of the JCPOA has effectively neutralized the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program”, said Thomas Countryman, the chairman of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association and the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation.

They have also said they don’t think it realistically can be modified and have urged the United States to stick to its commitments and work separately on issues such as human rights abuses, corruption, ballistic missile testing and Iran’s support for militant groups in other countries.

A ban on USA financial institutions doing business with Iranian banks remains in place. A White House spokesperson says that deal should address Tehran’s ballistic missile program, tighten inspections, eliminate the agreement’s sunset clauses and limit Iran to a one-year breakout to obtain a nuclear weapon. Under JCPOA, the U.S. relaxed a ban on imports of Iranian luxury goods, such as carpets and caviar, but most USA restrictions on trade with and investment with Iran remain in place, according to the CRS report.